GB Team – Aaron McKibbin

amckibbinbio
Date and place of birth: 27/08/1991, London
Home town: London
Lives: Sheffield
Family: Mum Joanne, older sister Emma and grandmother Iris
TT Class: 8
Current world ranking: 12
TT Style: attacking shake hand
International debut: 2009

Aaron’s story:

Aaron played tennis from the age of four to 14 before taking up table tennis at school. He quickly showed potential and competed in the UK Schools championship but had reservations when his coach first suggested he try out for the GB Paralympic squad.  “I didn’t consider myself to be disabled,” he explains. “I was 16 and thought people would laugh at me but I gave it a try, went to a training camp in 2009 and then to the Romanian Open to get classified.  I enjoyed it so much that I decided it was what I wanted to do. I was a bit arrogant at first because I’d played able bodied table tennis and I thought Para table tennis would be easy but I soon realised how good the standard is.”

Aaron was part of the ParalympicsGB team in London and together with Will Bayley and Ross Wilson he brought home a bronze medal from the men’s class 6-8 team event. He admits that the experience matured him and said: “It’s nice to know we were part of the 2012 Games that changed people’s view of the Paralympics. Lots of people are interested now – it’s changed the public’s perception and that’s great for us as athletes. Hopefully that will be the same in Rio.”

Aaron was born with bilateral talipese (club foot) and had corrective surgery from the age of one week old.  “I’m a lot quicker and more balanced than I used to be,” he says, “and we work on ways round the things that I can’t physically do. For me it is what makes Para table tennis fun because it is about trying to counteract your opponent’s disability – it’s more tactical.”

In 2013 Aaron enjoyed a number of wins against higher ranked players and having won his group in the European Championships was unlucky to be drawn against the former world champion and London 2012 silver medalist Richard Csejtey from Slovakia in the last 16, losing in three close games.

“I was happy with my performance in the Europeans,” he said. “It is hard to lose in the last 16 and think you have had a good competition but my level was good and I probably played as well as I did all season. On the whole it was a positive year for me. I started to become more consistent and I was also starting to push the higher ranked players more.”

In 2014 Aaron won team silver medals in Italy, Slovenia and Slovakia and achieved one of the best wins of his career in the Slovenia Open when he beat class 10 world number eight Pavel Lukyanov of Russia. He continued to progress and fought back on several occasions to beat higher ranked opponents including at the World Championships in China where he reached the last 16 of the men’s class 8 singles and played well in the men’s class 9-10 team event.

“I feel I’ve taken a big jump in the right direction,” he said. “I’m starting to beat players I haven’t beaten before and that is obviously positive.  I know the areas I need to improve on and if I can do that then hopefully next season could see me jump up to the next level and establish myself in the world’s top ten. There is more pressure in 2015 as it is qualification year for Rio and every competition will feel like a major championship so it should be an exciting year.”

In 2015 Aaron struggled a little for consistency despite some good wins and medals in Italy, Slovakia and Germany. In the European Championships in Denmark he reached the last 16 of the singles and, reunited with Ross Wilson in the team event, took the bronze having defeated Paralympic champions Poland in the group stages. The following month he went to the China Open in Beijing knowing that his qualification for Rio was in the balance. He responded superbly to the pressure, beating the Chinese world number two Ye Chao Qun to take gold in the singles and secure his Paralympic qualification.

“I came here with a job to do and I feel that I was successful in achieving that,” he said. “I’m very happy to have performed to a good level under these circumstances and I’ve shown that I can beat the best players in the world.”

Aaron went to Rio in determined mood and topped his group in the men’s class 8 singles before losing in the quarter-finals to the eventual silver medalist Andras Csonka from Hungary. In the men’s class 6-8 team event he combined with Ross Wilson and Will Bayley to win a superb bronze medal, clinching victory over World champions China by taking the deciding singles match 3-2 on his second match point.

“We believed genuinely that we could do this if we performed to our level and we showed it out there,” said Aaron afterwards. “We won a bronze medal in London but I personally think this is a greater achievement. We have had such hard opponents all the way through and the competition is getting stronger and stronger. I’m just so thrilled for the boys that we’ve done it.”

Along with the rest of the GB squad Aaron knows that the hours spent in training are necessary if he wants to achieve his goals.

“Hard work beats talent if talent doesn’t work hard,” he believes. “I enjoy training hard because I know I have to do that to improve. There is no better feeling for me than at the end of the day, if you’ve had a really hard session and your body is hurting and you know you’ve given everything, as that’s the only way you are going to get better.”

Chelsea fan Aaron is outnumbered by Arsenal fans on the team but is confident that he retains the bragging rights in terms of recent trophies won. Music also plays a big part in his life and helps him to prepare for matches, with hip hop and R&B his favourites.

Take 5 with Aaron:

Person who has influenced you most – my mum and grandma

Three famous people you would most like to have a drink with – Usain Bolt, Gianfranco Zola, John Bishop

Superstitions – I always change my shirt just before a match

Places you would most like to visit – Japan and USA; I love seeing new cultures and places so different to England

Three words that describe you best – confident, charismatic, funny

and finally – Aaron would like to be a contestant on The Cube

2017 Results:
Bayreuth Open, Germany – QF, men’s singles (class 8); silver, men’s teams (class 8)
World Team Championships, Slovakia – 7th men’s class 8
Slovenia Open – silver, men’s singles (class 8); bronze, men’s teams (class 8)
Lignano Master Open, Italy – QF, men’s singles (class 8)

2016 Results:
Paralympic Games, Rio de Janeiro – bronze, men’s teams (class 6-8); QF, men’s singles (class 8)
Slovakia Open – last 16, men’s singles (class 8); QF, men’s teams (class 8)
Slovenia Open – bronze, men’s teams (class 8); QF, men’s singles (men’s class 8)
Lignano Master Open, Italy – bronze, men’s teams (class 8); QF men’s singles (class 8)

2015 Results:
China Open – gold, men’s singles (class 8); bronze, men’s teams (class 8-10)
European Championships, Vejle, Denmark – bronze, men’s teams (class 8); last 16, men’s singles (class 8)
Bayreuth Open, Germany – bronze, men’s teams (class 9); last 16, men’s singles (class 8)
Slovakia Open – bronze, men’s singles (class 8); bronze, men’s teams (class 9)
Slovenia Open – QF men’s singles (class 8); QF men’s teams (class 10)
Lignano Master Open, Italy – silver, men’s teams (class 8); QF men’s singles (class 8)
Hungarian Open – QF men’s singles (class 8); group stages, men’s teams (class 8)

2014 Results:
World Championships, Beijing, China – last 16, men’s singles (class 8); group stages, men’s teams (class 9-10)
Slovakia Open – silver, men’s teams (class 8); group stages men’s singles (class 8)
Slovenia Open – silver, men’s teams (class 10); last 16 men’s singles (class 8)
Lignano Master Open, Italy – silver, men’s teams (class 8); group stages, men’s singles (class 8)

Career Highlights:
2016: Paralympic Games, Rio de Janeiro – bronze, men’s teams (class 6-8); QF, men’s singles (class 8)
2015: China Open – gold, men’s singles (class 8)
European Championships, Vejle, Denmark – bronze, men’s teams (class 8)
Slovakia Open – bronze, men’s singles (class 8); bronze, men’s teams (class 9)
Lignano Master Open, Italy – silver, men’s teams (class 8)
2014: World Championships, Beijing, China – last 16, men’s singles (class 8)
Slovakia Open – silver, men’s teams (class 8)
Slovenia Open – silver, men’s teams (class 10)
Lignano Master Open, Italy – silver, men’s teams (class 8)
2013: European Championships, Lignano, Italy – last 16, men’s singles (class 8)
Bayreuth Open, Germany – bronze, men’s singles (class 8); bronze, men’s teams (class 8)
Slovenian Open – gold, men’s teams (class 8)
2012: Paralympic Games, London – bronze, men’s teams (class 6-8)
China Para TT Open – gold, men’s teams (class 8)
2011: European Championships, Split, Croatia – 4th, men’s singles (class 8)
Brazil Open – gold, men’s singles (class 8); gold, men’s teams (class 8)

Further results are available at: http://www.ipttc.org/players/men/aaron_mckibbin/index.htm